Video Game Frustration is What Breeds Hostility, Not Violent Video Games, Says New Study

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Apr 09, 2014 06:00 AM EDT

Violent media has long been a favorite scapegoat of parents, politicians, and the like as an easy boogeyman to blame for whatever popular social ills are currently haunting the youth of today. But there's yet another study to join the multitudes of research showing that while violent video games may correlate with violent acts, it's far from the causation for such actions. Rather, there's something else at the root - frustration.

According to a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Rochester, published in last month's edition of "The the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology," experiences of "failure and frustration" are actually the link to "hostile" behavior, not the amount of violence in a game, something anyone who ever played Super Meat Boy, or had the spread gun snagged away by their "teammate" during Contra could tell you.

"Any player who has thrown down a remote control after losing an electronic game can relate to the intense feelings or anger failure can cause," explains lead author Andrew Przybylski, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University. Surely you've encountered the phenomenon known as "rage quitting." Painful to experience, and yet somehow hilarious to watch.

The study wasn't as simple as plopping down test subjects and watching them compete against a map full of dirty Titanfall cheaters and hackers. Describes Rochester's Newscenter:

"...researchers manipulated the interface, controls, and degree of difficulty in custom-designed video games across six lab experiments. Nearly 600 college-aged participants were tasked with playing the games-many of which included violent and nonviolent variations-and then were tested for aggressive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors."

"In one experiment, undergraduates held their hand in a bowl of painfully cold water for 25 seconds. They were led to believe that the length of time was determined by a prior participant, but in fact, all participants were assigned the same duration. Next, participants were randomly asked to play either a simple or challenging version of Tetris, after which they were asked to assign the amount of time a future participant would have to leave their hand in the chilled water."

Obviously, Tetris is one of the more passive games out there. No blood, no gore, just shifting blocks ever falling down more and more rapidly. Experiencing the frustration of more difficult controls, "players who experienced the difficult Tetris game assigned on average 10 seconds more of chilled water pain to subsequent players than those who played the easy version." Nice, huh?

"When the experience involves threats to our ego, it can cause us to be hostile and mean to others," explained coauthor Richard Ryan.

Interesting conclusion, but don't count on politicans stopping from the finger pointing anytime soon. Well, Leland Yee might, but he has bigger things to worry about at the moment.

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